Open meetings bill includes fine for violators, heads to Assembly vote

CARSON CITY — Public officials could be fined as much as $500 for violating the open meeting law under a bill approved without opposition by the Assembly Government Affairs Committee on Friday.

Members backed Assembly Bill 59 on a voice vote after making changes.

They struck language that would have allowed the imposition of fines even if the official did not know his or her actions violated the open meeting law. Under the bill, the fine could be imposed only if the official “willfully” violated the law.

The bill now moves to the Assembly floor for a vote by all members.

The open meeting law mandates public bodies meet in public, file three-day advance notices and agendas of their meetings, allow for public comment and stick to items on their agendas.

The Legislature has exempted itself from the open meeting law.

AB59 was proposed by Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto based on a recommendation from a task force she appointed. Her office is charged with enforcing the open meeting law.

Violations of the open meeting law are misdemeanor offenses that can result in six months in jail, but no one ever has been incarcerated for a violation.

In 2010, the attorney general’s office found 17 violations of the open meeting law out of 61 complaints.

Under AB59, public bodies that are found to have violated the open meeting law also must announce on their next agenda that they were found guilty of a violation.

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